clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

College Park Restaurant Owners Bringing Gullah Geechee Cuisine to the Marietta Street Artery

Second locations of College Park restaurants Virgil’s Gullah Kitchen and the Breakfast Boys open next year in Atlanta and Conyers

Shrimp and crab gravy at Virgil’s in College Park, GA
Shrimp and crab gravy from Virgil’s Gullah Kitchen in College Park.
Ryan Fleisher

Second locations of College Park restaurants Virgil’s Gullah Kitchen and the Breakfast Boys, co-owned by Juan and Gee Smalls, open next year in Atlanta and Conyers, respectively. The Smalls announced the openings on social media.

Virgil’s is taking over the former 4 Rivers Smokehouse space on Marietta Street, which closed in 2020 prior to the pandemic. The Florida-based barbecue restaurant opened in 2017 inside a century-old, two-story firehouse on the edge of the Georgia Tech campus. Gee Smalls also confirmed in an email to Eater they plan to open the Breakfast Boys in the old Tin Plate space on Commercial Street in downtown Conyers.

822 Marietta Street, Atlanta.
Future home of Virgil’s Gullah Kitchen and Bar in Atlanta along the Marietta Street Artery.
Google Maps

“Opening a second location of Virgil’s Gullah Kitchen & Bar means so much more than just opening another restaurant. It is not only strengthening a legacy that started in honor of my father, but it is also helping to spread awareness about the oldest Black culture in America,” Smalls tells Eater. “As Gullah Geechee people, we were not always celebrated in the way that we are starting to see hit mainstream right now. In fact, it was quite the opposite. So, to even be a small part of preserving such a rich and unique culture, is beyond an honor for the both of us,” he adds.

Virgil’s first opened three years ago on Main Street in College Park, serving soul food takes on Gullah Geechee cuisine, including crab rice, red rice, and shrimp and crab gravy. Gee Smalls was born and raised on James Island, north of Charleston, and many of the dishes listed on the menu are based on recipes handed down from family members still living on the island. The restaurant is named for Smalls’ late father and features a mural of its namesake created by local Atlanta artist C. Flux Sing, who hails from Charleston.

The couple attempted to open Virgil’s in Midtown, where they previously lived. After repeatedly being turned down for leases in the area, the Smalls say the search for a restaurant space led them to College Park, calling stumbling upon the Main Street location a “happy accident.”

Juan Smalls and Gee Smalls of Virgil’s Kitchen
Juan and Gee Smalls.
Ryan Fleisher
A mural of Virgil Smalls at Virgil’s Gullah Kitchen in College Park, GA
Virgil Smalls mural, late father of Gee Smalls, at Virgil’s Gullah Kitchen in College Park.
Ryan Fleisher

“To be quite honest with you, us being two same-gender-loving men, there are no black-owned spaces for us in our community,” Gee Smalls told Eater at the time of the College Park opening. “A large part of our motivation was to provide a space for people like us to come in.”

Earlier this year, the Smalls, along with Atlanta restaurateur Lorenzo Wyche, opened brunch restaurant the Breakfast Boys in the former Kafenio space on Main Street. Wyche first met the Smalls when he consulted on the opening of Virgil’s Gullah Kitchen.

822 Marietta Street, Atlanta. virgilsgullahkitchen.com; 914 Commercial Street, Conyers. eatatbreakfastboys.com.

Update, November 9, 3:10 p.m.: This story was updated with more details and comment from Gee Smalls.

Kafenio

3387 Main Street, , GA 30337 (470) 823-4929 Visit Website

The Breakfast Boys

3387 Main Street, , GA 30337 (470) 312-2108 Visit Website

Thumbs Up Diner

826 Marietta Street NorthWest, , GA 30318 (404) 745-4233 Visit Website

Virgil's Gullah Kitchen & Bar

3721 Main Street, , GA 30337 (404) 228-4897 Visit Website

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Eater Atlanta newsletter

The freshest news from the local food world